TREND Fall 2018 - Page 30

In Search of DA Richard Davis, Bridges Specialist - Tennessee School for the Deaf Education today is seeing monumental changes occurring. From high stakes testing, to teachers being scrutinized as never before as law makers continue to dictate classroom procedures with their yearly evaluations. Tenure is becoming a concept of the past with the fear of inept teachers having a license to continue their job with no real recourse. Teaching models are being developed and adopted by the various school systems across the country. There are so many initialed and acronymed programs now, school programs are starting to look more like alpha-bit soup. During my thirty eight years in education, I have seen an evolution of education as to how it is now practiced. When I first started teaching there appeared to be the art of teaching which turned into the science of teaching and now that is being melded a blend of science and politics of teaching. Teachers at one time were held with high respects, but today teachers seem to be the causation of society’s misfortunes and every child’s failures. I first want to address the subject of tenure. What is tenure and why has it became such a vile concept for the public? Most everyone’s notion of tenure is that tenure is a permanent license to teach whereas a teacher cannot be fired. That is so wrong. Teaching is a profession whereas at the end of each school year, the teacher technically looses his/her job and must be invited back the following year. So basically teachers work each year on a one year contract. Without some sort of check and balance system, a teacher can be let go at the end of a school year without any reason. Now notice I did not say get fired. A teacher could just simply not be rehired for the next school year. In a perfect world this would be ok. As if a teacher was not cut out to do the job, or just was not a good teacher, they could be let go, even with dignity. But we do not live in a perfect world. What happens when there is a strong teacher who has a personality conflict with an administrator? The administrator could be the weak one, but has the power to simply not rehire the teacher. In many school districts there have been many teachers let go to make room for a relative of an administrator or even a relative of a politician, such as a school board member or superintendent. What tenure does, and was set to do, was to prevent this from happening. Now a teacher does not get tenure immediately. In most cases, the teacher has to be invited back for the fourth time or in other words have three years of experience. The thought pattern of this means that you have three years to show that you are a quality teacher. If during that time it is deemed that the teacher is not cut out for the job or just maybe the teacher and school are not a good fit, the teacher will not be invited back. Now after three years, does it mean the teacher has a job for life and cannot be let go? NO! It does NOT mean that. I have seen several teachers let go after they have received tenure for various reasons. We have all seen in the news teachers who have been appropriately let go for behaviors that are not allowed. What tenure does is requires the school system to put a tenured teacher to be let go through a due process to show why they are not going to be allowed to teach any more in that system. Tenure does not protect bad teachers. Is this not what we all want? Does anyone want a job where they can just be told you are no longer accepted here without reason? Teaching models are constantly being developed and improved upon, but do you realize that many models are being created by folks that have never been a teacher in the classroom or at least in past ten years? I love it when we have teacher in-services to help us become better teachers as the high paid lecturer is lecturing us on how the worst way to teach is through lecturing. Or we do these hokey activities that we know our students are going to look at us and say “Unh uh, I ain’t doing that”. Through the years I have seen so many models and programs come and go. It’s almost like watching clothes fashion. You know sooner or later bell bottoms will be back again. But in most cases all the models and programs all have something in common. And that is they are trying to fix teachers. Now I am not saying that some teachers do not need to be fixed, but when you have a classroom with thirty students and twenty six of them are succeeding and four are not, there is probably nothing wrong with the teacher. Very few programs focus on what’s wrong with the student. For a student to be successful, that student must bring to class certain skills and abilities that are required for learning. If they do not have those skills and abilities, they will never get the information no matter how good the teacher is. Let’s find the programs that focus on the student and fixing them. There is a saying used with the Bridges Program that says, “It is easier to build a child, than to fix an adult”. So let’s focus on that.